When it comes to bar traditions, karaoke is on par with happy hour specials, bar nuts, and forgetting to close out your tab after a long night of partying.
Whether you have the talent to audition for American Idol or The Voice, or you just think you're the best singer in the world after a few drinks, it's just as fun to try your hand at "Livin' on a Prayer" or "Bohemian Rhapsody" as it is to watch others attempt to do so.
It takes a good crowd, a thorough selection of songs, and something truly special (cheap drinks don't hurt) to set a bar apart from the numerous karaoke spots around the Valley.
The following five bars have what it takes.
It's no secret: gay men adore oh-so-fabulous style icons like Madonna and Britney Spears. Singing "Vogue" in the shower isn't enough, sometimes you need an audience. Every Sunday and Tuesday night, patrons are encouraged to hop on the tiny, decked out stage and sing their favorite songs in front of an audience of drag queens and folks who love them some karaoke.
Dramatic baritone renditions of Adele and the Grease soundtrack are to be expected every night, though all are welcome to join in. Though Kobalt is a gay bar (which we just so happened to name The Best Gay Bar in 2012), it attracts a mixed crowd -- so pop on in.
It takes a bit of nerve and talent to join a live band on stage. Rockaroke lets anyone try his or her hand at fronting a band every Thursday night. Glancing at a screen every so often to check the lyrics isn't an option--playing live means no familiar crutch of scrolling lyrics, so up-and-coming chanteuses need to know the songs inside and out.
Lyrical fumbles happen more often than not, making this a great place to people watch. Fortunately, the laid back crowd tends to be more supportive than judgmental.
This huge Mesa bar took Brooks and Dunn's "You can take the girl out of the honky tonk, but you can't take the honky tonk out of the girl" to heart. Sure, the bar has its share of bedazzled would-be cowgirls rocking out to songs like "Red Solo Cup" while riding the mechanical bull, but the classic country vibe is undeniable thanks to polite gents in cowboy hats.
Every Wednesday night, folks are encouraged to take the stage and sing country classics and mainstream hits in front of a live band. It doesn't matter how old or new the song is, as long as it's country. The singer's success is usually gauged by how many people are dancing, though a good enough song will rouse the crowd no matter what.
2. Geisha A Go Go This posh sushi bar features large black and white portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Sid Vicious, which blend into the minimalist zen theme surprisingly well. A first time visitor could easily overlook the private karaoke rooms tucked away in the back of the bar, but once a reservation is made, it's party time.
The private rooms are a great way to overcome stage fright--after all, it's tough not to feel like a rockstar while surrounded by a disco ball, mood lights, a stripper pole, and a rowdy group of friends. The bar has a few premade playlists like "boy bands" and "girly girl," but if guests can't find what they need, all of the rooms are equipped to connect to mp3 players.
1. Brigett's Last Laugh There's a reason this so-called "five star dive bar" has won our best karaoke award time and time again. This North Valley bar hosts karaoke every night from 9 p.m. to close, attracting a good balance of regulars and newcomers. The song selection is pretty varied--crooners are sometimes followed by rap or country, and no one seems to mind the variety.
The playlist is constantly being updated, though some regulars don't stray too far beyond go tos like Alanis Morrissette or The Cranberries. This laid back bar is very welcoming, especially on its '80s or '60s beach party theme nights.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.